In this article about how to prevent diabetes we’re going to talk about the 3 big ones. These are topics that come up every day when we’re discussing the ins and out in our diabetes program called Sugar Burners 🔥.
- Weight Loss
So you’ve been told you’re on the verge of Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM).
Your doc has given you the warning and said that if things don’t turn around they might start you on some medication that should help with those high blood sugar readings.
Your doc then suggests some changes in exercise and diet would do you some good. People diagnosed with T2DM are usually not active enough. So maybe this is a good place to start.
But how on earth do you do this? Where do you begin?
It’s easy to see how and why some people can get bogged down at the start. I see this as a huge problem because the restriction of not knowing what’s right may prevent people from starting at all.
While I do believe that most people living with type 2 diabetes are prescribed appropriate medication, the advice on lifestyle change and how to achieve it is something we are really undervaluing and not executing as best we can.
My best advice is to seek the right advice!
Early and aggressive treatment to control high blood glucose levels significantly reduces the risk of long-term diabetes-related complications.
EPs (exercise physiologists) and dietitians can shine through and provide great care for people who already have T2DM or those trying to prevent it. We can give you advice on not just what to do but how best to go about it.
So here we will make a start.
How to prevent diabetes, in particular T2DM (or help you manage it better).
How to Prevent Diabetes #1: Diet
Here’s some quick points on diet for people with T2DM:
- Low carbohydrate diets can be useful to help lose weight and control blood sugar. Super low carbohydrate diets are not usually recommended.
- Reduce saturated fat intake to reduce LDL cholesterol.
- Keep protein intake in normal range.
- Sugar recommendations for people with diabetes are similar to those of the general population.
Yep, diet is the best place to start if you’re looking to control those high blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
A common misconception is that carbs are evil, however this is not the case.
One of the first diet changes for people living with type 2 diabetes is altering carbohydrate intake to be more consistent and evenly spaced throughout the day.
Doing this helps maintain blood sugar levels within a normal range more consistently through the day.
Eating too much carbohydrate can raise your blood sugar levels and conversely, eating too little carbohydrate can lead to abnormally low blood sugar.
Some other good tips include:
- Controlling portion sizes
- Making sure you serve yourself
- Using a smaller bowl or plate
- Eating slower to avoid overeating
As an EP I can give basic dietary advice and these are the tips I start with. The best person to help you and give you the best advice is a dietitian.
More detail can be found in the Australian Dietary Guidelines from the Australian Government here.
How to Prevent Diabetes #2: Weight Loss
The risk of T2DM is substantially increased with obesity. Most people with type 2 diabetes are obese and interestingly, obesity itself can cause some degree of insulin resistance.
So it makes sense that losing some weight (particularly fat mass) is a great way to prevent and manage diabetes.
For people who already have type 2 diabetes and are overweight or obese, weight loss of 5 to 10 kilograms can help improve insulin sensitivity, blood lipids and blood pressure.
That might seem like a lot but it is more achievable than you think. With a few tweaks to your diet and regular physical activity this amount of weight loss can be achieved with time.
But how do you actually lose weight?
Well, there’s really only one way to lose weight.
You must be in a calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit is where the energy you put into your body is less than the energy your body is using to keep you alive and fuel movement.
When you consume food, you are consuming energy. Different foods yield different amounts of energy. Some foods are packed with energy, others are not.
Everything you eat and drink that contains energy results in energy IN.
On the flip side, your body uses energy to fuel movement (like walking and lifting weights) and keep your normal bodily functions happening. This results in energy OUT.
One of the great things about exercise is that it not only helps you use more calories but with more lean muscle, you will burn more energy at rest and this really helps when trying to achieve weight loss.
What should you aim for?
Everyone is different and will have different goals. However it’s good to know what you should expect to achieve if you get it right.
If you’re a numbers person, about 0.5kg of weight loss per week is considered healthy weight loss that is sustainable.
Sustainability is key here. Going hard and fast is not sustainable and research says that you are actually more likely to put it all back on and then some!
Slow and steady is the way to go.
My advice is try not to look at the scales too much, your weight will fluctuate up and down day to day and sometimes this can be discouraging.
We’re in it for the long haul so testing yourself over the space of months will give you a better picture of how things are going.
Getting in touch with an EP and dietitian is a great place to start building your weight loss plan.
How to Prevent Diabetes #3: Exercise
This is my favourite part.
There are so many different ways to approach this part but it really boils down to this:
“Be active, more often.”
This is the best advice on exercise for someone trying to prevent or manage diabetes.
Boosting your physical activity levels has so many positive effects on your body, especially for those with pre-diabetes or T2DM.
Regular exercise not only plays an important role in weight loss but also improves blood glucose control, blood lipid profiles and blood pressure.
The benefits of regular exercise are undeniably substantial. And if anything else, regular exercise will get you feeling like a better you!
Although we know the benefits, getting started with exercise can be quite overwhelming for someone that isn’t quite familiar with it.
This is where your EP will come in handy.
You and your EP will figure out the best strategy that suits you while understanding the intricacies of T2DM and how that affects you.
A good starting point is looking at the guidelines for aerobic physical activity. The textbook recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week. That works out to be about 22mins per day of things like walking, jogging, swimming or bike riding.
Resistance training (think body weight exercises, using light weights, using therabands) is also recommended for two times per week.
I look at these guidelines as a small goal to get to and something to build towards rather than a place you start. Everyone starts somewhere, no matter how small your initial goals might be.
The most important thing is you find something you enjoy. The best exercise plan is the one you stick to and can constantly complete week in, week out.
Some people like doing this on their own, but others enjoy exercising in a group like our Sugar Burners group here in Pascoe Vale.
I think that attaching exercise to a friend or social outing, like group exercise, is a really strong strategy that might help you stay committed.
We need you to be consistent, day by day and week by week, so finding that enjoyment is key!
FAQ On How To Prevent Diabetes
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic health condition that occurs when a person’s body becomes resistant to insulin and also insulin deficient. Insulin is a hormone that helps to keep your blood sugar levels within a good range and is also used to break down energy from food. When this isn’t working the way it should, you end up with more glucose in your blood than what is healthy. Too much glucose in the blood over a long period of time can cause damage to the blood vessels, nerves and tissues of your body which can cause many problems like a heart attack or stroke.
What is prediabetes?
Before type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, there can be a period where blood sugar levels remain high over many months. Your blood sugar levels might be on the cusp of what is considered diabetes. Usually this is a pretty good indicator that type 2 diabetes is around the corner if no action is taken.
How is type 2 diabetes diagnosed?
Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed following a blood test. The main part of the blood test your GP will look at is HBA1C levels. This is a good indicator of what your blood sugar levels have been on average over about 3 months. Because your blood sugar can fluctuate through the day, it’s a great way of getting the bigger picture.
Another good marker is insulin levels. When your body is insulin resistant, your pancreas will try to compensate by producing more insulin so your body will respond. Over time your pancreas is less able to compensate and high blood sugar levels will worsen.
- Normal – Below 6% or 42mmol/mol (IFCC units)
- Pre-diabetes – 6.0% to 6.4% or 42mmol/mol to 46mmol/mol (IFCC units)
- Type 2 Diabetes – 6.5% or over 47mmol/mol (IFCC units)
What are the risk factors that lead to diabetes?
The risks factors of type 2 diabetes can be broken down into things you can control and things you cannot control.
Risks you CANNOT control include age, family history, sex and past behaviours.
Whereas the risks you CAN control are obesity, diet, physical activity levels, alcohol consumption, smoking.
If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or know someone at risk, now’s the time to act. Start with making the changes you need. For those local to us the Sugar Burners 🔥 diabetes program is a perfect start.